An Overture Toward American Modernism

Whistler to Cassatt Access Guide

The Eight—a group of American painters so named by the press in 1908 after their first group exhibition—chose to exhibit together like The Ten. By gleaning inspiration from the old masters as well as from the avant-garde European artists, they touched lightly upon Tonalism, Cubism, Impressionism, and Realism. The Eight and its founder Robert Henri wanted American artists to be able to break from the strictures of the conservative institutions in the United States. They held that each artist had the right to craft a completely individual approach to his or her stylistic inclinations, exemplified in the works of Maurice Prendergast and William Glackens shown nearby. Edward Hopper, who espoused this approach in a work painted in Paris in 1907 shown here, preferred not to associate with any artist group.

A painting of a dark, stormy sky over a beach and the incoming ocean waves.

Museum of Nebraska Art: Museum Purchase made possible by Lorraine Rohman, Helen N. Blackledge, Tom & Sue Reiber, Godberson Mortuary, Jim & Sharon Knapp, Germaine Oldfather, Mr. & Mrs. Mark Randall, Pauline Nichols, Raymond & Bernice Mercer, 1986.47
Image courtesy Museum of Nebraska Art

Robert Henri
American, 1865–1929
A Concarneau Beach (Coast Scene)
1899
Oil paint on linen
Museum of Nebraska Art: Museum Purchase made possible by Lorraine Rohman, Helen N. Blackledge, Tom & Sue Reiber, Godberson Mortuary, Jim & Sharon Knapp, Germaine Oldfather, Mr. & Mrs. Mark Randall, Pauline Nichols, Raymond & Bernice Mercer, 1986.47
Image courtesy Museum of Nebraska Art

Robert Henri, credited as the founder of The Eight, studied at the Académie Julian and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and exhibited at the annual Salon there. He saw one of his canvases purchased by the French state in 1899, the same year he painted Concarneau Beach. Henri became a force for the development of a new generation of American artists by emphasizing artistic freedom as a foundation for the creation of avant-garde modern American art.

208. Robert Henri, Robert Henri, A Concarneau Beach (Coast Scene), 1899, and Concarneau Beach, 1899

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(SXF: Beach Sounds and bird sounds)

Adele Tanner (AT): Imagine yourself standing on this beach. You can almost feel the wind on your face and hear the crash of the waves! Ahhh and these two paintings are where I'd love to travel to next! The beach! What do you notice in these paintings? Can you imagine yourself standing in the center of this painting? I love how this painting catches nature in its true form! Robert Henri was well known for his lively brushstrokes, and he was another American Artist who moved to France! The inspiration for this painting came when he visited The Concarneau Beach.

(SXF: Beach Sounds and bird sounds)

He said:

Voice Over Of Robert Henri: "Art is the giving by each man of his evidence to the world. Those who wish to give, love to give, discover the pleasure of giving."

AT: What a powerful quote from Robert Henri! It is indeed a pleasure to be able to give! Especially when you're giving art! What do you think about art as a gift?

(SFX Alarm clock ringing)

AT: Oh no friends, it looks like my time travel clock is telling me it's time to go back to 1913. I'm sad I have to go, but I'm so happy I was able to time travel to the future and make wonderful friends like you! The Whistler To Cassatt exhibition featuring all of the artists we've met, including my Grandfather Henry Tanner, is going to be so fun to report back on! I have everything I need for my article, thanks to you and all our new artist friends! Well, gotta go! 1913 here I come! Goodbye friends!

(SFX Sounds of time machine blasting off)

A painting of people crossing a city bridge over a canal lined with steamships.

Whitney Museum of American Art: Josephine N. Hopper Bequest, 70.1181
© 2021 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper / Licensed by Artist Rights Society (ARS), NY. Digital image © Whitney Museum of American Art/Licensed by Scala/Art Resource, NY

Edward Hopper
American, 1882–1967
Les Pont des Arts
1907
Oil paint on canvas
Whitney Museum of American Art: Josephine N. Hopper Bequest, 70.1181
© 2021 Heirs of Josephine N. Hopper / Licensed by Artist Rights Society (ARS), NY. Digital image © Whitney Museum of American Art/Licensed by Scala/Art Resource, NY

116. Overture to Modernism: Edward Hopper’s Le Pont des Arts

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Narrator: We’re back in Paris here – but it’s a rather unconventional view of the city. Instead of depicting a sweeping boulevard or fashionable park, this painting by Edward Hopper shows us windswept figures crossing the river Seine – from beneath a bridge.

Standring: It is true that Hopper simply wanted to show the underside of the beautiful carapace of Paris. He didn't want to associate with any group. He wanted to be an individual. And what a great coda to this exhibition to exemplify American singularity and individualism, but with this wonderful work by Hopper.

Narrator: Around the time Hopper made this painting in 1907, American artists were working in very diverse ways – as you can see by looking at the other paintings along this wall.

And six years later, the New York Armory Show of 1913 would thrill and shock American viewers with art by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Marcel Duchamp, among many others. It marked a monumental shift toward modernism in American art – a move that had some of its roots in the outward- looking, experimental approaches of the artists we’ve explored today.

We very much hope you’ve enjoyed the exhibition. Please leave your audio device at the kiosk as you leave.

An abstract painting of clouds over a golden beachscape.

Museum of Nebraska Art: Museum purchase, 1976.14
Robert Henri, Concarneau Beach, 1899. Museum of Nebraska Art: Museum Purchase made possible by Lorraine Rohman, Helen N. Blackledge, Tom & Sue Reiber, Godberson Mortuary, Jim & Sharon Knapp, Germaine Oldfather, Mr. & Mrs. Mark Randall, Pauline Nichols, Raymond & Bernice Mercer, 1986.47

Robert Henri
American, 1865–1929
Concarneau Beach
1899
Oil paint on linen
Museum of Nebraska Art: Museum purchase, 1976.14
Robert Henri, Concarneau Beach, 1899. Museum of Nebraska Art: Museum Purchase made possible by Lorraine Rohman, Helen N. Blackledge, Tom & Sue Reiber, Godberson Mortuary, Jim & Sharon Knapp, Germaine Oldfather, Mr. & Mrs. Mark Randall, Pauline Nichols, Raymond & Bernice Mercer, 1986.47

208. Robert Henri, Robert Henri, A Concarneau Beach (Coast Scene), 1899, and Concarneau Beach, 1899

0:00 0:00
100

(SXF: Beach Sounds and bird sounds)

Adele Tanner (AT): Imagine yourself standing on this beach. You can almost feel the wind on your face and hear the crash of the waves! Ahhh and these two paintings are where I'd love to travel to next! The beach! What do you notice in these paintings? Can you imagine yourself standing in the center of this painting? I love how this painting catches nature in its true form! Robert Henri was well known for his lively brushstrokes, and he was another American Artist who moved to France! The inspiration for this painting came when he visited The Concarneau Beach.

(SXF: Beach Sounds and bird sounds)

He said:

Voice Over Of Robert Henri: "Art is the giving by each man of his evidence to the world. Those who wish to give, love to give, discover the pleasure of giving."

AT: What a powerful quote from Robert Henri! It is indeed a pleasure to be able to give! Especially when you're giving art! What do you think about art as a gift?

(SFX Alarm clock ringing)

AT: Oh no friends, it looks like my time travel clock is telling me it's time to go back to 1913. I'm sad I have to go, but I'm so happy I was able to time travel to the future and make wonderful friends like you! The Whistler To Cassatt exhibition featuring all of the artists we've met, including my Grandfather Henry Tanner, is going to be so fun to report back on! I have everything I need for my article, thanks to you and all our new artist friends! Well, gotta go! 1913 here I come! Goodbye friends!

(SFX Sounds of time machine blasting off)

Whistler to Cassatt: American Painters in France is organized by the Denver Art Museum. The exhibition is supported by the Tom Taplin Jr. and Ted Taplin Endowment, the Kristin and Charles Lohmiller Exhibitions Fund, the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, Kathie and Keith Finger, Lisë Gander and Andy Main, Lauren and Geoff Smart, Christie’s, the French American Museum Exchange (FRAME), the generous donors to the Annual Fund Leadership Campaign, and the residents who support the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Promotional support is provided by 5280 Magazine and CBS4.